Consular Officer Careers

It may not seem criminal justice related, but in a consular officer career you'll protect Americans overseas.

american consulate with us flag flying overseas

U.S. citizens are located all over the world and consular officers are there to support them in times of need.

While the career can be demanding, working as a consular officer can allow you to see other parts of the world while helping your fellow Americans.

What Does a Consular Officer Do?

Consular officers are Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) working for the United States Department of State. They're assigned to U.S. embassies and consulates around the world.

They provide a wide range of services for U.S. citizens traveling or living overseas including maintaining their welfare, assisting in locating missing citizens, helping U.S. citizens get appropriate health care and assisting with criminal justice matters such as imprisonment.

Other duties include:

  • Receiving, reviewing and adjudicating visa applications
  • Analyzing the country's public opinion and attitudes
  • Developing policies
  • Evaluating a foreign country's economic or political conditions and trends
  • Analyzing a foreign country's specific forces
  • Protecting American citizens, property or interests in a foreign country

Consular officers are expected to be efficient in processing visas, be knowledgeable of current U.S. foreign policy objectives and programs and be able to communicate well with others.

To be considered or eligible, applicants must also be U.S. citizens, at least 20 years of age and no older than 59 years of age when applying and be willing to work anywhere in the world.

Consular Officer Education

Though there are no education requirements for applicants, many Foreign Service Officers enter the field with advanced degrees. In the past, consular officer careers were not as competitive as the Political Officers and Public Diplomacy Officers career tracks. Now, competition for jobs has increased and those with advanced degrees and foreign language skills are finding the best opportunities.

A bachelor's degree is a good place to start and based on the Consular Officer pay scale, may be more financially rewarding sooner than becoming a Consular Officer without a bachelor's degree.

An example the State Department website gives is that a FSO with a bachelor's degree and 5 years work experience will make the same amount as an FSO with no degree and 11 years of experience.

Bachelor's degrees that current consular officers hold include:

  • Political science
  • Economics
  • History
  • Sociology
  • Geography
  • Anthropology
  • Law
  • Criminal justice
  • Business
  • Accounting
  • Statistics
  • International relations

Salary and Job Outlook

Consular officer salary is based on the government's Foreign Service salary schedule. Base pay is based on grades and steps. According to the 2014 salary table, pay ranges from $32,282 to $152,420.

Consular officer job availability depends on the needs in various countries, but specific job growth expectations are not published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors.